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Labor organizations oppose the Trans Pacific Partnership Trade deal in a rally outside of the Capitol in May 2014.
The Senate advanced fast-track authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Thursday. It's still most definitely worth turning a critical eye to the deal, as the Economic Policy Institute's Josh Bivens does in a takedown of a recent New York Times article by Binyamin Appelbaum:
First, on the gains from trade policy (i.e., how much we should expect national income to rise if we sign trade agreements), Appelbaum refers to a piece from the Peterson Institute of International Economics claiming that trade liberalization added 7.3 percent of GDP to American incomes by 2005—about $9000-10,000 per American household. This is just not true. It’s a wildly inflated number that should not be in the policy debate (and if you need much smarter and better-credentialed people making the some point—here’s Dani Rodrik). This number is an effort to bully people into going along with today’s trade agreements by making them think the stakes are utterly enormous. In fact, even if it was correct (again, it’s not) this study would be irrelevant to today’s trade policy debates because the sum total of economic gains from all post-1982 trade agreements (this includes NAFTA, the completion of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, the formation of the WTO, and the permanent normal trading relations with China) is estimated to be just $9 per household, meaning that  99.9 percent of the gains from trade estimated in the study happened before 1982. So even if trade liberalization really did spur mammoth gains at some point in the (distant) past, the effects were over by the early 1980s.

Second, on the distribution of gains and losses from trade, it is striking to me that so many economists who favor signing every trade agreement that comes down the pike can still feign surprise that expanded trade seems to be bad for most workers’ wages. Put simply, it is completely predicted in textbook trade economics that wages for most workers will fall and inequality will rise when the United States trades more with poorer trading partners. Yes, expanded trade is predicted to lead to higher overall national income, but it is also predicted to redistribute enough income within the United States that it can (and is likely to) make most workers worse-off. This should not be a surprise to anyone familiar with the topic.

Of course, there are things that shouldn't be a surprise and things that are actively covered up.

Continue reading below the fold for more of the week's labor and education news.

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Map showing how many hours per week you'd need to work at minimum wage to afford a one-bedroom apartment, paying no more than 30% of income for housing costs.
Click map to enlarge
Minimum wage increases passed by cities and states around the country are great news for low-wage workers—but the news isn't good enough. As a new report (PDF) from the National Low Income Housing Coalition shows, even those higher minimum wages are mostly not high enough for a worker to afford an average two-bedroom apartment on 40 hours a week of work without spending more than 30 percent of their income on housing costs. Nationally:
The 2015 Housing Wage is $19.35 for a two-bedroom unit, and $15.50 for a one-bedroom unit. The Housing Wage for a two-bedroom unit is more than 2.5 times the federal minimum wage, and $4 more than the estimated average wage of $15.16 earned by renters nationwide.
While housing costs and the minimum wage both vary by state, the news doesn't get much better if you drill down:
In no state can an individual working a typical 40-hour workweek at the federal minimum wage afford a one- or two-bedroom apartment for his or her family. In fact, with the exception of a handful of counties in Washington and Oregon (where the state minimum wage is $9.47 and $9.25, respectively), there is no county in the U.S. where even a one-bedroom unit at the FMR is affordable to someone working fulltime at the minimum wage.
Rents, unlike the minimum wage, "have risen nationally for 23 straight quarters. As of the third quarter of 2014, rents were 15.2% higher than at the tail end of the Recession in 2009." While high rents are a problem most visible in urban areas like New York and San Francisco, rural renters face challenges, too.
Josh Duggar, Executive Director of the Family Research Council Action, speaks at the Family Leadership Summit in Ames, Iowa August 9, 2014. The pro-family Iowa organization is hosting the event in conjunction with national partners Family Research Council Action and Citizens United. REUTERS/Brian Frank?(UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY POLITICS) - RTR41TNC
Josh Duggar speaks at the Family Leadership Summit
By now, the story is everywhere. Reality TV son Josh Duggar has had to step down as executive director of Family Research Council Action and apologize for having molested several underage girls, including his own sisters, when he himself was 14 years old. The fact that Josh Duggar was 14 years old at the time weighs heavily with me, and I think should with all of us. The question is how his family—especially 19 Kids and Counting patriarch Jim Bob Duggar—responded to Josh's actions at the time and took steps to ensure that his pattern of sexual abuse wouldn't continue, and what the family learned from the experience as they went on to become national figures. The answer to the first question appears to be "badly and inadequately," and the answer to the second appears to be "not much."

When they realized that their oldest son was molesting younger girls, sometimes while they slept, the adult Duggars disciplined him. When it continued:

Jim Bob then “met with the elders of his church and told them what was going on.” No one alerted the police or any other law enforcement agency. Instead they decided to send Josh to a “program [that] consisted of hard physical work and counseling. James said that [redacted, Josh] was in the program from March 17, 2003 until July 17, 2003.”

He said the program was a “Christian program.” Michelle Duggar later admitted to police that Josh did not receive counseling and instead had been sent during that time to a family friend who was in the home remodeling business.

Jim Bob and church elders subsequently took Josh to a state trooper for a "very stern talk," but didn't officially report the incidents. When police were later tipped off, the statute of limitations had expired. So Josh never faced legal trouble and he never got counseling.

These are people who hold themselves up, and who are held up on television, as models of sexual morality. For many observers it was clear before now that Duggar morality is founded on repression, but this adds secrecy and total lack of accountability to that score. Most importantly, it's clear that none of them—not Jim Bob, Michelle, or Josh—developed any compassion or hesitation about condemning others as a result of this.

Josh Duggar's career has been more or less as a spokesman for bigotry. It's obvious he didn't learn the lesson that he, as a child molester, was not in a position to judge others for their loving, consensual, adult relationships. So it may be worth asking if he learned the lesson that he shouldn't sexually assault people—true, his parents didn't even try to teach him not to judge others, but it doesn't seem like they tried all that hard to turn him away from his predatory behavior, either.

For what it's worth, Mike Huckabee, who the Duggars endorsed and campaigned for in the 2008 Republican presidential primary, is standing by Josh. Then again, even without a valued endorsement on the line, Huckabee has ample reason to want the things fine young Christian men do as teens to be erased from memory.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R), flanked by Secretary of State John Kerry, delivers remarks to reporters at the top of a cabinet meeting at the White House in Washington May 21, 2015.  REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst - RTX1E0KN
The official Republican talking point on Iraq and the extremist group known as ISIS is that everything would be peachy if only President Obama had continued the policies of George W. Bush. Except not the policy where Bush negotiated a withdrawal timeline and Obama stuck with it. The policy where Bush would have ignored that plan and continued occupying Iraq if he darn well felt like it.

All of this, not just the part where Rick Santorum advocates "bomb[ing] them back to the 7th century," is ridiculous, yet Obama remained characteristically calm and polite in answering some of those claims in an interview with Jeffrey Toobin. "I’m very clear on the lessons of Iraq," Obama said. "I think it was a mistake for us to go in in the first place, despite the incredible efforts that were made by our men and women in uniform."

But, he argued, at some point Iraq has to find its own way:

I know that there are some in Republican quarters who have suggested that I’ve overlearned the mistake of Iraq, and that, in fact, just because the 2003 invasion did not go well doesn’t argue that we shouldn’t go back in. And one lesson that I think is important to draw from what happened is that if the Iraqis themselves are not willing or capable to arrive at the political accommodations necessary to govern, if they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them. We can be effective allies. [...]

But we can’t do it for them, and one of the central flaws I think of the decision back in 2003 was the sense that if we simply went in and deposed a dictator, or simply went in and cleared out the bad guys, that somehow peace and prosperity would automatically emerge, and that lesson we should have learned a long time ago. And so the really important question moving forward is: How do we find effective partners—not just in Iraq, but in Syria, and in Yemen, and in Libya—that we can work with, and how do we create the international coalition and atmosphere in which people across sectarian lines are willing to compromise and are willing to work together in order to provide the next generation a fighting chance for a better future?

Gee, rejecting permanent occupation, letting other countries govern themselves, trying to be an ally rather than a conqueror, and trying to build coalitions. How dare he have an answer that doesn't start with bombs and end with massive troop commitments?
U.S. presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks to reporters after a roundtable campaign event with small businesses in Cedar Falls, Iowa, United States, May 19, 2015.    REUTERS/Jim Young   - RTX1DOLO
Anyway, this is the polite version of the face I made when reading this article.
New York Times reporters really aren't bothering to hide their loathing of Hillary Clinton anymore, to the point where the next logical step is for the newspaper to adopt the mottoes "fair and balanced" or "we report, you decide." Here's how one Times reporter tweeted his latest article:
In Iowa, Queen Hillary and the Everyday Americans of the Round Table distribute alms to the clamoring press.
Yeahhhh, Queen Hillary. "We report, you decide!" As for the article itself ...
Unlike in 2008, when Mrs. Clinton’s regal bearing was brought low by Barack Obama’s insurgent campaign, there is no one to force her out of her Rose Garden. Neither Bernie Sanders, the socialist senator from Vermont, nor Martin O’Malley, the former governor of Maryland, has applied significant pressure on her. That leaves the news media as her only real opponent so far on the way to the Democratic presidential nomination, and while it may not be great for an educated populace or the furtherance of American democracy, it makes all the political sense in the world for Mrs. Clinton to ignore them, too.
"That leaves the news media as her only real opponent so far." It's a horrible premise, as Jay Rosen among others has made clear. But boy is it ever a premise Jason Horowitz does his best to live out in an article with personal animus oozing from under every line. Here's how Horowitz describes Clinton taking press questions, as they'd been endlessly whining she was not doing:
“Tell me — tell me something I don’t know,” she said, almost musically, as she snapped her head to the left in a Janet Jackson-era dance move. “Ha, ha, ha, ha.”

The smile on Mrs. Clinton’s face slowly faded as she nodded and replied and obfuscated in response to the half-dozen questions asked of her.

Later in the piece, "She seems less a presidential candidate than a historical figure, magically animated from a wax museum to claim what is rightfully hers." So, Janet Jackson-era dance moves and a historical figure magically animated from a wax museum—she's old! To claim what is rightfully hers—Queen Hillary, so entitled! How dare she be a strong presidential candidate when we, the press, don't like her?

The entitlement here is on the part of the press, claiming a role in politics that does not belong to it by any reasonable read of the role of the press, with reporters insisting that their inane questions and picayune obsessions are what's important in this race. Insisting that, rather than covering Bernie Sanders' campaign as seriously as they're covering the campaigns of Republicans with lower polling numbers than Sanders, the right way to cover the Democratic primary is by dismissing Sanders and setting themselves up as Clinton's true opposition. It's disgraceful.


Thu May 21, 2015 at 03:00 PM PDT

Daily Kos Labor digest

by Laura Clawson

Sign saying united we bargain divided we beg
Governor Scott Walker, potential Republican presidential candidate, speaks at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma May 21, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking - RTX1E0LB
Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI)
As the Republican presidential primary gets into gear, the candidates are having to get themselves in line with what Republican primary voters want to hear—even if it means saying things that will hurt them in a general election. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker's problems have been so extreme that he's been forced to try to redefine what flip-flop means, but he's not alone in his struggles. Jeb Bush's flailing on the Iraq question may someday enter the realm of political legend, and he's had to quit talking about "respect" when opposing marriage equality.

Especially coming after Mitt Romney's performance in 2012, this has to make some Republicans nervous:

“You have to be careful when you are doing this — that you don’t so embrace your base that it becomes impossible to move and have some flexibility or nuances in your position moving forward,” said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.).
But Stuart Stevens, a former top Romney adviser, thinks there's nothing to worry about:
Said Stevens, “It’s like watching people warm up for the Super Bowl and then saying: ‘What do you think the consequences will be in the third quarter?’ ”
If the Romney campaign thought the early primary campaign was just a warm-up period that didn't matter to the election, that might explain a lot. And if the current candidates want to see it that way, too, far be it from me to stand in their way.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (R) takes part in a roundtable of young Nevadans discussing immigration as she campaigns for the 2016 Democratic presidential nomination at Rancho High School in Las Vegas, Nevada May 5, 2015.   REUTERS/Mike
Some enterprising reporters have moved on, as New Hampshire's Dean Barker observes, from asking why Hillary Clinton isn't talking to political reporters to asking why she isn't talking to "regular people." The Boston Globe's Annie Linskey, for instance, quotes a liberal radio host, the chairman of a county Democratic Party, and a political science professor to make the point that Clinton hasn't yet held a campaign event open to all comers in New Hampshire. In short, so far this cycle she hasn't participated in the theater of the town hall meeting, of which the Globe's James Pindell wrote:
... for the most part, from now until when voters pay attention this fall, these events are dominated by special interest groups that want to be part of the presidential primary show.

These days, it’s not uncommon for people to get paid to follow candidates around the state, repeating the same questions at each stop — sometimes accounting for as many as half of the inquiries.

Linskey's take is that Clinton isn't making herself available to hear from voters ... but already in this campaign, Clinton has decided to focus on heroin addiction after voters in New Hampshire and Iowa told her it was a problem needing more attention. She's had a serious, fruitful discussion of immigration with activists. All the signs are that she's listening and responding—yes, often to people chosen for their interest in specific areas, but is talking to people with personal experience and longtime focus on specific, important topics necessarily less valuable than answering any and every question that comes her way now, first, right away? Even if the person asking it is being paid to do so at five political events a day?

Why is that more real and valuable than, say, the childcare workers Clinton met with at a roundtable this week? That gave her the opportunity to hear stories like that of Patricia Bailey, a Washington state daycare provider and SEIU member who makes less than her state's minimum wage by the time she's done covering expenses and offering discounts to families that can't afford to pay for child care; you can see video of Bailey below the fold.

Women working long hours for low wages are unlikely to be able to attend however many big-audience events it would take to be called on to ask a candidate a question, and those who don't live in early primary states don't even have the chance. But these women's stories are important for a candidate to hear—especially a candidate focused, as Clinton has promised to be, on things like paid family leave—and we shouldn't dismiss them because it's their union that got them into an event where Clinton would have time to listen and talk to them. Creating worker strength through numbers is what unions are for, and if that's what it takes to make a presidential candidate listen, it's not less real or important than the concerns of people who live in New Hampshire and Iowa and have the leisure time to attend open-to-the-general-public events held during working hours.

Continue Reading
U.S. President George W. Bush (L) delivers comments on a meeting with the House Republican leadership as Minority leader John Boehner (R-OH) looks on at the White House in Washington May 7, 2008.    REUTERS/Jim Young     (UNITED STATES)
Republicans think they can get voters to forget who's really responsible.
Republicans, led by George W. Bush, made a giant mess of Iraq, destabilizing the country in ways leading directly to the formation of the extremist group known as the Islamic State, ISIS, or ISIL. But Republican presidential candidates prefer to ignore their party's responsibility for the ongoing conflict in Iraq, because they think a nasty extremist group is a good way to gain some fear-based votes in 2016 and that they'll be able to shift blame to Democrats by then.

Jeb Bush is going around arguing that Obama should have kept 10,000 troops in Iraq, because he should have been able to bully the Iraqi government into accepting that:

The Obama administration asked for more troops to remain on the ground, but negotiations with the Iraqi government did not ensure that U.S. military personnel would be granted immunity.

Jeb Bush argued that Obama "could have kept the troops in and he could have had an agreement," adding "the United States had enough influence to be able to deal with the immunity issue."

But most of the Republican candidates aren't even getting that specific. They're just posturing.
“They want to bring back a 7th-century version of jihad. So here’s my suggestion: We load up our bombers, and we bomb them back to the 7th century,” former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania said at the recent Iowa forum.
Santorum has to win the "over-the-top rhetoric" category, but Scott Walker is strong in the "ignoring history" category:
“President Obama and Secretary Clinton hastily withdrew troops, threw away the gains of the surge, and embarked on a broader policy of pivoting away from the Middle East,” Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), a likely 2016 candidate, wrote on his Facebook page last week.
That's a very smooth translation to Republican-speak of "President Obama and Secretary Clinton observed the George W. Bush-negotiated withdrawal plan and the wishes of the Iraqi government."

The Republican bet is that they can scare voters about ISIS and pin the blame on Obama, wiping out the memory of the role of the invasion of Iraq in destabilizing the region and creating the conditions for the formation and rise of ISIS. They probably can scare voters—but it'll be tough to scare enough people to overcome opposition to more years of war and to Republican domestic policies.

U.S. Republican presidential candidates gather before the start of their debate in Ames, Iowa August 11, 2011. They are (from L to R) Rick Santorum, Herman Cain, Ron Paul, Mitt Romney, Michele Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty, Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich. REUTER
Eight looked like a lot in 2012 debates, but 2016 will feature 10 or more Republican candidates.
The rules are set for how many Republican presidential candidates will be allowed to crawl out of the clown car and go on stage for the first primary debate of the cycle. Now, the question is which candidates will meet the requirements and be among the lucky 10 (or 11 or 12) to be included in the August 6 Fox News debate.
The network will require contenders to place in the top 10 in an average of the five most recent national polls in the run-up to the event, narrowing what is expected to be a field of 16 or more by the Aug. 6 event in Cleveland.
If polls are tied, there could be more than 10 candidates on stage. So who would make the grade if the debate were held today?
The top 10 contenders in the five most recent national polls are former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, real estate tycoon Donald Trump and former Texas governor Rick Perry, according to a Washington Post analysis. Former U.S. senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and Ohio Gov. John Kasich are a fraction of a point behind Perry.
That means a Carly Fiorina-free sausage fest that does not paint the picture of faux diversity the Republican Party is hoping for. Also, Donald Trump! How fabulous will that be? Guys, really, if you get any national presidential poll calls in the week or two before August 6, please tell them you're voting for Donald Trump, just to ensure that we all get to see both how he performs in a debate and the expressions on the other candidates' faces while he's talking.
McDonald's worker with a sign made to look like a paycheck to an
McDonald's workers are once again rallying ahead of the company's shareholder meeting, boosting their call for $15 an hour pay and the right to join a union. There was no ignoring the protest Wednesday:
McDonald's shut down a restaurant near its headquarters Wednesday after the area was swamped by hundreds of protesters calling for pay of $15 an hour and a union.

The restaurant was closed because of traffic concerns, said Heidi Barker Sa Shekhem, a spokeswoman for McDonald's. The company also told employees in a building targeted by protesters they should work from home, she said.

McDonald's has only made a weak token gesture toward raising worker pay, saying it would raise wages in the small percentage of stores operated directly by the company, then using that to boost its case that McDonald's is not responsible for wages and working conditions in stores operated by franchisees. But the low-wage worker movement for $15 pay has had a big national impact, with the Los Angeles city council having voted this week to raise the city's minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020. Los Angeles follows Seattle and San Francisco in passing such a law, while other cities like Chicago and Oakland have raised their minimum wages above the levels passed by any state government to this point.
lethal injection, death penalty
Nebraska's legislature has voted to repeal the state's death penalty by what should be a veto-proof margin. The vote was 32 to 15, and 30 votes are needed to overcome the expected veto from Gov. Pete Ricketts.

The Nebraska legislature is unicameral and officially nonpartisan, though party affiliations aren't exactly a secret. That being the case:

What made this year’s repeal effort different from those in the past was the support from a significant number of Republican senators.

Conservative lawmakers who voted for repeal cited higher costs of carrying out a death sentence versus life in prison. Some mentioned they have come to oppose the death penalty because of religious reasons, while others raised concerns about executing people who were wrongfully convicted.

"I’m pro-life from conception until when God calls somebody home," said Sen. Tommy Garrett of Bellevue. "I’m not going to quibble over innocent life versus those who are guilty for what they have done. This is a matter of conscience."

Nebraska has 11 people on death row and its last execution was in 1997.
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